Muktinath and the Muktikshetra in Mustang

The holy from Gandaki river gushing out of the 108 water spouts are said to cleanse the devotees of their sins and set them on a path to salvation. The waters are to as well and it’s called ‘’ in language meaning “a hundred springs”.

The Muktinath pilgrimage

The are believed to be terrestrial dwelling place of saints and the home of the . The Muktinath situated at an attitude more than 3,700 meters in Mustang district of is an important pilgrimage site for both and Buddhists. The high-altitude setting of the site, cold weather conditions and rough roads along the way make it difficult for pilgrims who make the journey on foot along the Gandaki River. Muktinath is made of two words, “mukti” meaning salvation and nath meaning “lord”. Hence, the shrine is perceived as the “Lord of salvation”.  It is believed that bathing in the holy waters from the 108 taps of Muktinath will cleanse the sins committed by people leading them to salvation. It is significant geographically as well because of the nearby holy Gandaki River, which is considered as the source of the , (the fossilized shells believed to be Lord ).

The Muktinath Temple

Located at the foot of Thorang La Mountain pass, the three- tiered, -style temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. devotees call the temple Muktikshetra (the land of salvation). It is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared in Muktinath and his sculpture is of divine origin.

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

Muktinath is one of the Swayam Vyakta Kshetras (sacred temples where Sri Vishnu is said to have self-manifested) alongside Sri Ranganatha swamy temple, Tirupati Balaji temple, Tirumala Bhoovaraha Swamy temple, Sri Vara Mangai temple, Varaha temple and Naimisharanya. Although it is a Vaishnava shrine, devotees of Lord also travel to Muktinath and consider it as an important pilgrimage destination such as Kedarnath, Badrinath and Amarnath. Thousands of devotees undertake the rigorous journey on foot to reach the scared place. It takes about 6 hours to hike from Jomsom to Kagbeni. However, one can also take a jeep ride from Jomsom market then hike up hill for about 30 minutes. Those who are unable to hike can enjoy the horse ride 3700 meters above sea level.

The 108 springs

Taking a dip in the holy pond known as Mukti Kunda is essential for the pilgrims as it is believed that it removes negative . Another thing the devotees do before visiting the shrine is take a holy bath in the 108 water spouts known as Mukti Dhara. The holy water from Gandaki river gushing out of the 108 bull shaped water spouts are said to cleanse the devotees of their sins and set them on a path to salvation. The waters are equally sacred to Buddhists and it is called ‘Chumig Gyatsa’ in Tibetan language meaning “a hundred waters”. It is believed to be one of the 24 tanric places in .

Muktikshetra in Buddhism

Muktinath is a great example of harmony in Nepal. The presence of a Buddhist nun and a Hindu priest in the temple illustrate how Buddhism and co-exist here.

Photo : Sambid Bilas Pant

In , the idol of the is believed to be Bodhistava (), the lord of . In , Muktikshetra is a place where () considered as the founder and protector of Tibetan Buddhism, visited and meditated. It is believed that he introduced Buddhism to after he visited the area. Many Buddhists travel all the way from Tibet to pay homage to Padmasambhava.

The Jwala Mai or the “Salame- bar Dolamebar

Muktikshetra is also home to a sacred flame burning since immemorial known as Jwala Mai (the goddess of ). Pilgrims who travel to Muktinath visit the Jwala Mai, the fire temple built above an underground water spring to see the miraculous unwavering fire. The gas present in the spring emerges beside the shrines in the temple, giving the impression of water on fire. Hindus believe that it was a place where Lord known as the creator set fire on the water. The Buddhists call the temple, “Salame- bar Dolamebar Gompa”, the temple of the miraculous fire. There are idols of Avalokiteshvara, and inside the temple.

The Shaligram

Shaligram stones are exclusively found in the riverbed and banks of the Kali Gandaki River. Shaligram is worshipped as a representation of Lord Vishnu just like the Shiva is worshipped as Lord Shiva himself. Shaligrams are fossils of ammonite shells which is associated with Lord Vishnu and resemble (), a sacred emblem of Lord Vishnu used as a trumpet during Hindu and festivals. Many travellers come to Mustang from different part of the world, just to get a Shaligram stone.

Kagbeni

Kagbeni is another scared place for both Hindus and Buddhists. The village located in the Varagung Muktikshetra rural municipality is about 12 kilometres away from the Muktinath temple. Many Hindu pilgrims stop at Kagbeni a day before going to Muktinath. They start their trek from Jomsom to Kagbeni, where the Jhong river meets with the holy the Kali Gandaki, then to Muktinath which takes around 12 hours. The devotees perform Shraddha, (the performed to remember the deceased family member) and offer Pinda ( made to the one’s ancestors as part of funerary rites) in Kagbeni hoping the souls of their loved ones get Mokshya (liberation or release) from the cycle of life and death. Buddhists visit the place because there are number of located in Kagbeni.

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About Sambid Bilas Pant

Experienced independent writer & photographer with a demonstrated history of working in the media industry.

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